Following Japan s 2011 Fukushima disaster, the German government decided to move away from largely nuclear power and carbon-based energy toward clean renewables such as wind, solar, biomass and hydropower. Offshore wind energy will play a great role in this transition. Last year alone Germany connected 2,282.4MW of new offshore wind power capacity representing 75.4 per cent of all net capacity brought online in Europe.

One of the events that facilitates wind energy development is WindEnergy Hamburg 2016, an event which will bring together Hamburg Messe as a trade show organizer and Wind Europe – former EWEA – as a conference organiser for the first time. In preparation for this event, Hamburg Messe invited Offshore WIND to Hamburg to see the progress being made in the offshore wind industry with specific reference to the German companies.

Stepping stone to offshore wind farms

A highlight was the visit to Helgoland, a North Sea archipelago located 46 kilometers off the German coast, known for birds and tax-free liquor, and now also as an offshore service hub for North Sea’s wind turbines. The island underwent a massive change with the southern port being occupied by RWE AG, EON SE, WindMW GmbH, where the companies built their offices and warehouses taking 25-year leases. The offshore wind boom has increased island’s population by around 250, where most of the crews are alternating their stay on the island every fourteen days working in twelve-hour shifts. For this purpose, one of the operators has rented a complete hotel of 49 rooms for the period of the next ten years as there was no space on the island to build new accommodation.

Thanks to its proximity to offshore wind farms, technicians on-board Crew Transfer Vessels (CTVs) only need to travel around one hour and 15 minutes, depending on weather conditions, to reach their destination. David Teichert, project manager for Amrumbank West, explained that during summer O&M campaigns they utilise four to five vessels to transfer up to 60 technicians for working on maintenance projects on the wind turbines and offshore high voltage substations.

However, the island’s unique status and location has a downside. The supply chain delivering components from the mainland to Helgoland must deal with a huge challenge, said Teichert. “Sometimes, the shipment of spare parts gets delayed up to six weeks due to customs.” To mitigate delays, E.ON and WindMW entered into a collaboration where they would lend spare parts to each when they have them in stock. This was made easier as WindMW operates Meerwind offshore wind farm that uses the same Siemens 3.6MW turbines as Amrumbank. Their collaboration does not stop there. E.ON and WindMW have, although not so often, lent technicians to each other. “We’ve done it in the past, and if there is a need in the future, we will do it again”, Teichert explained.

This trend continues with the use of E.ON’s helicopter as well. All of this is done to benefit the industry and ensure a continuous supply of electricity produced by the offshore wind farms to the grid. Teichert added that they are looking to improve O&M logistics. One of the ideas for the next summer campaign is to use a floatel in the field. This would enable technicians to use all weather windows to work on turbines as it would eliminate the transfer time from and to Helgoland. As this is very costly, the idea could be realised in cooperation with RWE AG and WindMW GmbH.

Testing technological limits

Another of the visits arranged by Hamburg Messe for the group of visitors was to the IWES Dynamic Nacelle Testing Laboratory (DyNaLab) in Bremerhaven where Adwen was currently testing its AD 8-180 drivetrain. Their two synchronous motors arranged in tandem with a drive power of 5MW each, and nominal torque application of 8,600 kNm gives DyNaLab the ability to simulate conditions up to 10MW when testing the turbine.Simulating actual conditions as nearly as possible, representing the realistic load situation, the test turbine is tilted to an angle of 5° the same as on the wind farm location. More than 350 sensors are used during the process which will cover mechanical and electrical tests on the integral chain of the drivetrain and main tower components. This Adwen 8MW turbine has already been selected for three offshore wind projects planned offshore on the French coast, totaling almost 1.5GW. After the first part of testing is concluded, a complete AD 8-180 nacelle will be tested at IWES DyNaLab, followed by prototype installation at Bremerhaven by the end of the year.

NEW industrial revolution

Among others, we also visited Technology Center Energy-Campus Hamburg. Built by CC4E of Hamburg University of Applied Sciences,  it has an objective to network between companies, universities, and institutes to develop application-oriented solutions and innovations for renewable energies. The campus has two laboratories that conduct research of wind farm layout, turbine efficiency, turbine acoustics, demand side integration and energy storage. Additionally, a five-turbine wind farm is being constructed one kilometer from the Energy-Campus, which will be directly connected to it, thus facilitating studies in a wind laboratory.

CC4E also presented NEW 4.0, a large-scale transnational project aiming to achieve a sustainable energy supply and thereby ensure the future viability of the Northern German region. This unique initiative brought together Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein and combined their forces from business, science, and politics spheres to create a flexible and smart network of generators and consumers, involving all components connected to the power grid. This will result in the full integration of renewable energy into the energy system and flexibilize power consumption in order to adapt it to fluctuating generation. “As part of the overall venture we will be coordinating a total of 101 individual projects,” said Prof. Dr. Werner Beba, head of CC4E. “The novelty of our venture lies in merging all these components via communication and network technologies and operating it under one roof of one overall system, which is yet unprecedented.” NEW 4.0 stands for Norddeutsche Energie-Wende (Northern German Energy Transition) and 4.0 refers to the brink of the fourth industrial revolution: digitisation of industry resulting from a smart network of systems.

Press conference

During the press conference for WindEnergy Hamburg, Markus Tacke, CEO of Siemens Wind Power and Renewables Division, also stressed the importance of digitisation and cost reduction. He said: “Remote diagnostics and data analyses now enable higher yields and targeted, hence more cost-effective, deployment of maintenance engineers. Digitisation is already helping us to develop technologies that will enable us to match wind energy production better to grid demand.” Beba added: “At this point in time it is most crucial and important to demonstrate the feasibility of the energy transition. The North German Energy Transition 4.0 might be a very small project, but it can certainly provide solutions for a European and global context. If we manage to increase efficiency through new energy-saving solutions emerging from our project, this could trigger a tremendous leveraging effect for global enterprise.”

It is certain that exhibitions and trade fairs have a purpose not just for marketing and promotion but also for educating and sending a signal, not only to the industry represented at the event but to the world in general. The signal that is going to be sent out from WindEnergy Hamburg in September is clear – clean sustainable energy is needed today and all parties in this sector are working towards making the industry efficient and fit for purpose. Using technology and innovation to fuel the essential progress required for making this new application of one of the oldest forms of raw energy known to man to be fit for purpose in the 21st century.

Written by Armin Fazlić, Offshore WIND Staff